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Why the new visitation rights law offers limited help to grandparents

In today's modern society, many grandparents serve as de facto guardians, watching grandchildren on a daily basis while one or more parents goes to work and helping defray the otherwise enormous costs of daycare.

Indeed, it's precisely because of arrangements like these that the bond between grandparents and grandchildren can grow to be so strong.

While you might be tempted to think that grandparents who enter into arrangements like these would perhaps stand a better chance of securing visitation rights in the event of a divorce between the child's parents, this is far from the case.

In fact, the reality in Florida has long been that the courts largely leave it up to the child's parent to decide whether grandparents should be allowed to spend time with their grandchild.

Furthermore, it should be noted that while a recently enacted state law does provide grandparents with improved access to their grandchildren, the scope of this law is rather limited.

That's because the new visitation law only applies when 1) one of the grandchild's parents are missing, in a vegetative state or deceased, and 2) the surviving parent has previously been convicted of either a violent crime or a felony.  

Interestingly, early cases are already suggesting that the constitutionality of this new visitation law will likely be challenged.

By way of illustration, consider a recent case where even though the court declined to apply the statute, the attorney representing the parent had nevertheless been prepared to argue that it was overly broad in that it fails to designate qualifying felony offenses and/or a timeframe for the conviction.

What all of this underscores is that grandparent visitation rights and child custody in general is an emotionally complicated and otherwise complex area of the law. As such, anyone with these concerns should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional. 

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